Food & Nutrition

13 Secrets Your Restaurant Menu Won’t Tell You

Here are the tricks your favorite eateries use to separate you from your money.

It’s all planned out

Man looking at a menu in the restaurantMinerva Studio/Shutterstock

Have you ever entered a restaurant craving a spinach salad, only to end up ordering the pig roast special? Chances are, the proprietors had a hand in that outcome. Be it a high-end eatery or a fast-food joint, a restaurant’s owners have clever ways to influence your choice. That soft background melody? A Scottish study found that diners spent 23 percent more when slow-tempo music was played. The red walls? That color stimulates appetite. And then there’s the menu. With its mouthwatering prose and ample use of consumer psychology, of course you want to sample every dish. Which of these tricks have you fallen for? Psst: You should also know the secrets your restaurant server isn’t telling you.

They omit the dollar sign

Man in restaurant reading the menuIryna Mandryka/Shutterstock

For some consumers, the dollar sign apparently screams, “Watch your wallet!” A Cornell University study found that guests at one restaurant, “given the numeral-­only menu, spent significantly more than those who received a menu with prices showing a dollar sign.”

They round up or end prices with 5

people, gathering and friendship concept - happy friends reading menu at restaurantSyda Productions/Shutterstock

Prices ending with a 9, such as $ 9.99, “tend to signify value but not quality,” says The New York Times. Most restaurants round up; if not, they’ll go with .95. Watch out for these secret ways restaurants get you to eat more.

Consonants that start with the lips indicate flavor


Names with lots of consonants that start with the lips and end in the throat (such as b) tend to mimic the mouth movements of eating. These dishes were rated more flavorful than dishes with names featuring consonants that start from the back of the throat (e.g., the c in “corn”), says a study from the University of Cologne in Germany.

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Food – Reader's Digest